Questions as to how the ClubsNSW and CrownBet deal eventuated are surfacing following the announcement of their partnership.
The pairing of CrownBet with 1200 registered clubs in the state has rivals Tabcorp, Sportsbet, and Betting.club questioning the process which added another win to James Packer’s portfolio.
All eyes are on former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou who is on the board of both Crownbet and its major shareholder, Crown Resorts, while also having connections with ClubsNSW.
Demetriou’s sports marketing company, Beyond Boundaries Group, ran the tender process on behalf of the NSW organisation.
The company features a small team of 12 executives and was founded with former Football Federation Australia boss and CEO of Beyond Boundaries, Ben Buckley last year.
Although Mr Demtriou didn’t comment when Fairfax Media reached out, ClubsNSW addressed the conflict of interest in a statement.
“We sought, and received, the necessary undertakings to manage the conflict,” said a ClubsNSW spokesman.
“Andrew Demetriou was not involved in the process.”
Mr Buckley said in a statement, “strict processes” alleviated any potential conflicts.
“At all times any potential conflicts were divulged in advance to ClubsNSW and tabled for discussion and approval by their board,” he said.
“ClubsNSW sought the technical expertise provided by Beyond Boundaries Group and in consultation with the two parties agreed on strict processes that were put in place to manage any potential conflicts.”
Rivals have expressed their anger, with Tabcorp’s CEO David Attenborough penning a letter to hundreds of clubs detailing a potential breach in the Unlawful Gambling Act. The company is yet to comment on the statement regarding the conflict of interest.
The pairing will steal Tabcorp’s monopoly since Crownbet will score the 6.7 million club membership database. The clubs will also encourage patrons to sign up to Crownbet where members will get loyalty rewards and will be able to cash-out at the venue.
ClubsNSW stick to their choice, despite Tabcorp’s condemnation.
“We chose CrownBet on their merits,” a ClubsNSW spokesman said.
“Speaking bluntly, their offer was far superior to the one put forward by Tabcorp.”
The deal put forward by Crownbet will see all pubs and clubs who sign up earning commission on all wagers made via the app while in the venue.
These comments are quite contradictory when compared to the statements ClubsNSW chief executive, Anthony Ball, said last year during a push for clubs to stop deregulation of in-play betting.
“Anyone who believes that these online betting companies are concerned about sports integrity, rather than boosting their revenue, is kidding themselves,” Ball said.
He went so far as to say online betting companies are “corporate cowboys” offering “inducements to gamble, credit betting, advertise non-stop – including to kids, and some of them are already operating beyond the spirit, and probably even the letter of the law, when it comes to in-play betting”.
The chief executive of Betting.club, Kelly Signell, has expressed her anger over the tender loss since the company was the first to approach ClubsNSW.
“We are disappointed in the outcome, but it’s business as usual for us,” she said.
But she did say the company, which is owned by three large NSW clubs – Campsie RSL, Mounties, and Club Rivers – suggested some clubs may opt out of the deal altogether.
“The Crownbet-ClubsNSW announcement is simply an endorsement – not a mandatory rollout for clubs,” Signell said.
“Clubs across NSW and Australia have a choice of who they partner with.
“Call me biased, but I think we are the right choice.”
A source connected to either Tabcorp or Sportsbet has said the process doesn’t “pass the pub test”.
“The optics aren’t great: a firm run by Andrew Demetriou awards deal to company he is a board member of,” they said.
Mr Demetrious sat out of the process, but his right-hand man and chief operating officer of Beyond Boundaries, Andrew Catterall was involved.
He advised which betting companies ClubsNSW should partner with, raising questions with regards to his involvement too.
In December, Catterall became the new chief executive of Racing.com, which is the free-to-air thoroughbred broadcaster in Victoria and betting partner to CrownBet. It was reported months prior to the announcement he was a frontrunner for the position.
ClubsNSW insists his work on the Crownbet tender was finished by the time he fell into the new broadcasting job.
“In relation to a potential conflict of interest involving Andrew Catterall, Beyond Boundaries’ role in ClubsNSW tender was completed before his appointment as CEO of Racing.Com,” the Clubs spokesman said.
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